About etiquetteer.com

Etiquetteer is known socially as Robert B. Dimmick. A native of Louisiana, Mr. Dimmick emigrated North for education, finally settling in that Athens of America, Boston, Massachusetts.

Mr. Dimmick spent his childhood attending weddings, reading Emily Post’s Etiquette, and being teased and taunted by other children for minding his mother, taking everything the preacher said seriously, and generally being a Good Boy. This ultimately led to an aversion to organized sports, television, and popular culture in general, and definite opinions about everything from restaurant dining to wedding dresses to historic preservation. Mr. Dimmick believes in the sartorial legacy of President Harry S Truman, getting out of the way of oncoming traffic quickly, and the tasteful expression of free speech. He is, all too often, willing to express an opinion on just about anything.

By day, Mr. Dimmick plans class reunions for one of those great big universities. By night he enjoys club openings, dinner parties, memoirs of the Fabulous, yoga, the music of the American songbook, and spirited conversation with friends. He invites you to behave with Perfect Propriety whether you want to or not.


Crying Children, and What to Do About Them, Vol. 14, Issue 27

July 21st, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Remember how “Ill-Mannered Children with Complacent Parents” was the Champion Pet Peeve of Etiquetteer’s Spring Madness of Pet Peeves? Remember that whole “Children must be seen and not heard” thing? It is time for parents to start leading us back there. Since most aren’t, other impacted people are, and not always with Perfect Propriety.

Etiquetteer sometimes has to specify that No One Cares About Your Loud Child. You, as a parent of a Loud Child, have an obligation to Maintain the Peace by keeping that child quiet. Yes, Etiquetteer recognizes that often that’s easier said than done. Too many parents don’t even make an attempt now, which is what leads to today’s news story.

Darla Neugebauer, the owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, Maine, yelled at a crying toddler in her diner to get her to be quiet, this after the crying had gone on for no little time. Buzzfeed has posted a more thorough account of the story. [NB: There’s an awful lot of profanity being slung around by Ms. Neugebauer and others, which doesn’t help. People ought to have their mouths washed out with soap.] Some people have a problem with this, starting with the toddler’s mother, Tara Carson. Etiquetteer has a problem with Ms. Carson and her husband for not having taken the toddler outside for Quiet Time much earlier. It appears that she didn’t consider, or care, about the impact all that caterwauling was having on anyone else in the room. To repeat, No One Cares About Your Loud Child. Etiquetteer is not making this up, you know.

But Etiquetteer, who knows from Bitter Personal Experience not to discipline the children of others, could only wish that Ms. Neugebauer had directed her ire at Ms. Carson and her husband more effectively, not the child. Here, she overstepped, and she is feeling the fury of the Internet as a result. No matter how provoked, no matter how justified one might feel, screaming at a child will more often than not make one appear in the wrong.

But no one comes out of this well, least of all the Carson family, and Etiquetteer sympathizes most of all with the other diners, who first had to endure the Loud Child, and then the altercation. The parents should have been more attentive to their child and more sensitive to its impact on others. Ms. Neugebauer should have taken a stand earlier, before losing her temper, and suggested to the parents that they take Loud Child outside until their order was ready. (Although according to accounts in the Buzzfeed post, she did.)

It seems that many people are insistently saying that they’ll never patronize Marcy’s Diner because of this, but Etiquetteer is not one of them. While Etiquetteer would have preferred to see this situation handled differently, it seems highly unlikely that any meal there in the future will be interrupted by a Loud Child.Teacup

Gift-Giving to Unresponsive Relatives, Vol. 14, Issue 26

June 17th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

When I sent my nephew his Christmas gift of cash, I told him that I knew he would be turning 18 in summer and graduating high school soon before. I told him his combined gift for these special occasions was a plane ticket to my city so that we could attend a Major League Baseball game together. However, because I know he’s busy, he had to plan in advance. I never (uncharacteristically) got a thank-you for the Christmas gift. And he got in touch with me only after I told his father about the gift last month. I received neither an invitation nor an announcement of the graduation. However, two days before, my sister-in-law asked my sister for my e-mail address so that she could send me the live link to watch the event. My brother has since told me that nephew is too busy this summer to come to Boston. So this is my question: Do I send him a different gift for this birthday, or just a card reminding him of the previous gift. And what should I do about the graduation?

Dear Avuncular:

One of the responsibilities that comes with adulthood is conducting your own relationships with your relations, and not relying on your parents to take care of them. Your Neglectful Nephew appears not to have learned this. Etiquetteer does not care how busy his senior year of high school might have been. He should have been in touch with you directly, either to set a date, or to decline graciously.

Etiquetteer has to agree with you that receipt of a graduation invitation goes a long way to making one feel invested in a young person’s future, and the gift one selects. Etiquetteer does have to wonder if your nephew sent them out at all, as it’s simply too far-fetched to think that you were omitted from a family list.

Your account of the situation certainly doesn’t display any enthusiasm on his part in your gift. Etiquetteer certainly sees no point in reiterating it. For his birthday, you might send him a bit of memorabilia from his favorite baseball team, along with a Lovely Note of Infinite Regret that you weren’t able to tempt him sufficiently to join you. Etiquetteer would advise caution about suggesting another trip again.

As for a graduation gift, this young man clearly needs to learn the value of Prompt and Gracious Communication. A box of custom-made notecards with his monogram would make the point nicely, and you could underscore it by addressing the first envelope in the box to you. If you prefer not to make the point so baldly, an engraved pen or pen/pencil set makes a useful and traditional graduation gift.


Dear Etiquetteer:

When my niece gets married this summer, I plan to give her a restored and nicely presented hymnal that was brought to the United States by our first ancestor to immigrate here. My niece has shown no interest in this side of the family, but I consider the book an heirloom that should go to her. I anticipate blowback from my sister about an insufficient gift. Would that characterization be appropriate, and should it be made, how would I respond? I am not close to either of them.

 Dear Heirlooming:

Heirlooms and other Items of Family Significance get short shrift from today’s bridal couples, a fact which never ceases to depress Etiquetteer. Given that your niece has not shown any interest in your shared family history, may not belong to or actively practice the religion advocated in the hymnal, and also that the two of you are not close, she’s apt to feel you’re getting off cheaply in the Wedding Gift Sweepstakes. In the interest of family harmony, Etiquetteer would suggest selecting an additional gift from her bridal registry to give along with the hymnal. Conversely, you could also save the hymnal to present to her and her husband on their Leather Anniversary, which is the third anniversary. (Etiquetteer is, of course, assuming that it’s a leather-bound hymnal.)

When you do give your niece the hymnal, Etiquetteer hopes you’ll choose to include an image of your Immigrant Ancestor along with any family stories that have been handed down. Even if your niece doesn’t care, one day her children may.



How to Respond to Hospitality, Vol. 14, Issue 25

June 11th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Dear Etiquetteer:

Can you tell me whether you think people who have been good guests at a dinner party or cocktail party (separate answers I think) – brought a hostess gift, behaved well, etc. – should also email or call the next day to say thanks? If they don’t, were they unhappy with the party?

Dear Hosting:

When a Lovely Note of Thanks has not been received, it’s always more charitable to assume Incompetence rather than Malice. Possibly your guests were taken ill, swept up in current events, anxious at the thought of finding something original to say about your party (which is completely unnecessary), or just too lazy to find your zip code. Regardless, their failure to express gratitude for your hospitality is no reflection on the hospitality you provided.

Etiquetteer may be the Lone Holdout in considering the Lovely Note more important than the hostess gift, but the expression of thanks afterward means ten times as much as the “payment for services rendered” sometimes implied by that bottle of wine. Few things reassure a host or hostess as much as the confirmation from guests of a “job well done,” that one’s efforts have not only been recognized, but appreciated. Too many people, Etiquetteer would suggest, feel daunted by the need to express themselves originally. But writing a Lovely Note certainly doesn’t take as much effort as picking out a bottle of wine. (Etiquetteer can just hear the oenophiles shuddering as they read this.)

You are more accommodating than Etiquetteer is in terms of how you’d allow these Lovely Notes to be delivered, suggesting email and telephone as options without even considering a handwritten note – which even today Etiquetteer is loath to refer to as “old-fashioned.” Communications unavoidably evolve with technology; this is not necessarily bad, but it’s made many people careless. While it was once the only way to communicate at all, now – with the near-universal adoption of the Internet – handwritten correspondence now signifies a special effort to express sincerity and appreciation. This is why Etiquetteer continues to think it’s the best way to convey thanks for hospitality received.

Etiquetteer hopes that you will not let the neglect of your guests cause you further anxiety, and that you’ll set them a good example with your own Lovely Notes after they entertain you in turn.


A Sign of the Times, Vol. 14, Issue 24

June 10th, 2015 . by Etiquetteer

Sad that a sign like this is necessary, but Etiquetteer does have to give the creator a Perfectly Proper Salute for the use of “beseech.”


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